Born from a desire to recognize standout individuals in the European freeskiing community, the European Skier of the Year contest presented by Monster Energy and anon has been hosted by Downdays since 2014.
47 nominees. 4 weeks of voting. 2 ultimate winners!
In the men’s bracket, Birk Ruud battled his way past up-and-coming freerider Max Palm and freeski legend Jesper Tjäder before coming face-to-face with the final boss: Markus Eder. Ultimately, though, Birk’s near-complete domination of the contest scene in 2022 paved the way for his first ESOTY win.
Birk won six out of seven contests he entered in 2022.
Lest we forget, let’s look at the scorecard. Olympic Big Air gold in Beijing. Gold at the Tignes World Cup Slopestyle. Gold at the Silvaplana WC Slopestyle. Gold at Big Air Chur. Gold at the Stubai Slopestyle. Gold at the Copper Big Air. Or put another way: Out of seven FIS-sanctioned events that Birk entered in the year of our Lord 2022, he won six of them. (He placed fifth in the Olympic slopestyle. Slacker.) This all goes to say, we’ve probably never had a more qualified candidate for the European Skier of the Year title. Congratulations Birk!
Our men’s runner-up is Markus Eder, who in 2022 continued to build his prodigious reputation as a titan of backcountry freestyle and one of the world’s most complete all-round skiers. From a leading role in Matchstick Productions’ Anywhere From Here, an appearance in “Nevia,” a third-place finish at the Nendaz Backcountry Invitational, huge bangers at Ritsch’s Roll and a Sports Emmy for “Ultimate Run,” Markus’ season was nothing to shake a stick at. But in the eternal battle of freestyle vs. freeride, the freestylers won this round. Markus shouldn’t be sulking, though; he’s still got the ESOTY titles in 2014 and 2018 hanging on his wall.
On the women’s side, Kelly Sildaru cruised past Johanne Killi and Mathilde Gremaud on her way to a finals showdown with HedviG Wessel, a newcomer to the ESOTY finals.
Kelly on her way to another World Cup win. Photo: Christian Stadler
Already a three-time ESOTY winner (2014, 2017, 2019) Kelly now adds a fourth notch to her belt. In 2022, she claimed five World Cup podiums while competing in three disciplines, winning the overall Crystal Globe. She also won X Games halfpipe and took Olympic bronze in slopestyle. Congratulations Kelly!
The women’s runner-up Hedvig Wessel podiumed at three stops on her way to second place overall on the Freeride World Tour. She also co-founded the Sister Summit, filmed for Warren Miller Entertainment’s Daymaker and continued her vlog series, Hedvig’s Way.
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